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A beaming Benjy Little, dressed in black from his shades to his sneaks, stomps away from his shiny black Volvo sedan. He has spotted his old Anacostia High School music teacher in the parking lot of the McDonald’s on Georgia Avenue, near Howard University, and moves in. Despite the fact that he hasn’t seen the teach in about eight years and dropped out of high school because of a cocaine habit (he has since kicked coke and picked up his GED), this is a moment Little has probably dreamed about many times. He whips out a wrapped issue of his new full-color magazine, Go-Go Swings. The sell is successful. His teacher, Darold White, is impressed enough to pitch for his own spot in the thing, despite White’s group being not a go-go band but a swing combo. “I’m in a group called Swing Shift,” he explains. “Let me give you my home number. We play high-society stuff.” Little smiles broadly. “That’s what we’re tryin’ to put up in here,” he says, not missing a beat.
Little, 27, is the consummate salesman, but then, he’s got big plans for the bimonthly he founded in September. In the “Editor’s Quote” column in the new second issue, he sums up his philosophy: “This is what I am about: getting worldwide recognition.” His Puff Daddy dreams are rooted in the fact that go-go isn’t covered by any national publicationsnot Vibe, not Rolling Stone. It’s a subject he takes to heart, although I’m not sure I buy the fervor of his spiel. “I walked into a People’s drugstoreit was a good six years ago,” Little begins. “I saw all the publications on different types of music….I didn’t see one on go-go, and it really hurt. It really hurt. Tears came to my eyes, because as long as go-go has been around, no one took the time or no one cared to take the time to start a magazine for go-go.”
Judging by what he has put down on paper, though, the Southeast native has sincere intentions. Although Little’s mag hardly goes beyond fanzine gushing, it offers the go-go scene something it would otherwise lack: a forum for issues both trivial and serious. Features range from fashion trends to lifting go-go out of the warehouse ghetto. Swings gives the reader a sense that go-go has a culture beyond the violence that routinely makes headlines. Pioneers such as Chuck Brown and former Rare Essence frontman James Funk are given their due in “exclusive” interviews. There are photos of visiting rap stars from Lil’ Kim to DJ Kool and ads from such sponsors as Kutt-N-Upp Barber Shop, Sports Zone, and Midas.
Little claims he already has 12,000 subscribers, solicited through Web postings and months of show-hopping. With support from fans and industry insiders such as ICYICE Productions, the mag could become a local fixture. “We’ve been criticized too long,” Little says, ever a defender of his scene. “We all need to uplift.”Jason Cherkis